Handling Delays: 3 Tips on How to Stay on Schedule

Handling Delays: 3 Tips on How to Stay on Schedule

In my previous post, I shared practical and totally doable steps that you can take to get media exposure. Here we’ll delve into something that’s part of every children and family performer’s life: delays.

Has this ever happened to you? You leave your home early to get to your show taking weather, construction, and traffic into consideration. You then get to the venue so you can set up and start promptly at the scheduled time like all professionals should. You’re ready to begin your performance… Then the client informs you that they’re running a little late. You’re told that your show will be slightly delayed.

Ten minutes go by and you still haven’t started yet. Your clients keep holding you back until they are ready. Although you want to accommodate them, your schedule tells you that you cannot because there’s another event you have to run to after. What do you do?

On one hand, you want to do your show and get paid, but on the other hand, you don’t want to cause delays at your following gig. For many of us, the difficulty lies in confronting the client and explaining our situation. We might be so concerned with maintaining goodwill with our client that we get cornered into delicate situations like this.

The question remains, how do you deal with this situation? Here are some things that will help.


Tip #1: State it in your contract.

First, you should have a contract with a provision for this situation. My standard contracts contain a clause saying that the performance should begin no later than 10 minutes past the scheduled time. If the performance begins later than that 10 minutes, I reserve the right to cut the program short and finish at the originally scheduled time and still get paid the full amount. It’s an easy and effective way to ensure that you get paid for your work and still stay on time.

If the performance begins later than that 10 minutes, I reserve the right to cut the program short and finish at the originally scheduled time and still get paid the full amount.
If you wish to be a little more extreme, your delay clause could state that any delay beyond 10 minutes immediately deems the show cancelled by the performer and payment is due immediately in full. This might seem harsh to some, but it is in fact quite beneficial to everyone involved. It keeps clients on their toes and on time. Once they read such a clause, they immediately understand that your time is precious and cannot be wasted for fear of losing you. This clause serves as a deterrent to ensure that your clients respect the established schedule.

Is such a harsh clause always necessary? That depends on how busy you get. My general approach is to adopt the first 10-minute clause (the one where the show can be cut short) most of the time, and the severe 10-minute clause (the one where the show gets cancelled) during the Christmas season. The reason is simple. I average anywhere from five to eight shows a day on holiday weekends. There is absolutely no way I can be late for anything, so I must be strict.


Tip #2: Remind your client during your confirmation call.

In case you’re not sure if your client has read the contract properly or is aware of this particular clause on delays, you can always remind them of this condition during your confirmation call. (You do make a confirmation call, don’t you?)

Your confirmation call should be placed within the week prior to your show. This call gives you the opportunity to review with your client all of the details of your performance, including the location, type of show, fee, payment terms, special requirements, cancellation policy, and of course, the scheduled starting time. This is where you can remind them of the delay clause. It also gives the client one last opportunity to adjust their schedule if they foresee any delays. If such is the case, you may now adjust your terms accordingly rather than be faced with the situation at the last minute.

But what if you cause the delay due to unexpected circumstances?
Occasionally, I get this question from clients: what happens if I am late? That’s answered easily. I am never late. I am a professional and therefore always on time. Of course, one never knows when unforeseen circumstances such as a flat tire or severe weather conditions can cause a delay beyond your control. I therefore inform my clients that should such unforeseen circumstances occur, I will contact them immediately via cell phone/text and inform them of the delay. I will also adjust my performance time or fee to their satisfaction. Of course, don’t let this one delay offset your entire day.


Tip #3: Be direct with the client.

If you don’t have time to spare

If you don’t have a contract (oh, but you should!), things become a little more tricky. The best approach is always the most direct and honest approach. Be professional. Inform your client that although you can delay your performance slightly, you are on a tight schedule and cannot stay past a certain time as you cannot be late for other clients. They will usually understand and try to hurry things along or accept a shorter set.

DO NOT, however, accept less money for a shorter set. Even though your performance time has been reduced, your fee stays the same. You arrived and were ready to begin on time as per your verbal agreement and you should be paid as agreed.


If you do have time to spare

If your schedule is more flexible, that is to say, you do not have pressing engagements after that particular show, you may choose to accommodate your client. A little goodwill often goes a long way.

However, there should still be a limit on what is an acceptable delay. If your clients are running more than a half hour late and you agree to stick around for the full set and start late, it is acceptable to renegotiate your fee in accordance with your extra time lost. In these situations, I usually add a small surcharge for that extra half hour or even a full hour of waiting around. Charge whatever you feel comfortable with.

However, in case you find your client to be more difficult than others, it might be better to let it go. Learn to read your clients and figure out when it’s worth pursuing the matter with your fee. When it’s better to keep it to yourself, accept the delay. The bottom line: No matter which way you go, always treat your clients professionally and respectfully.


The tips given above are general guidelines that you must use when practical. Let’s face it: if you have a steady client that always pays well, you don’t want to create a stir over one little delay. Explain your timing situation with them (if there is a problem) but do not ask for more money. This may hurt your long-term relationship with your good repeat clients.

When all is said and done, you want to keep in mind these two things:

  • Assert yourself as a professional. Your clients have to know your time is valuable.
  • Respect the relationship you have with your client. Do not endanger long-term business for one immediate performance.

The trick is to find a balance between these two aspects.

And remember, don’t ever let anyone steal your dream!




Don’t like making cold calls? Want to learn an easy way to book more shows? Stay tuned next month to learn more about the Repeat Client.